In The Shape Of A Heart

Album: Lives In The Balance (1986)
Charted: 66 70
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song about love and loss, Jackson Browne uses powerful images to convey the pain the singer feels as he finds his girlfriend's heart-shaped pendant by the bedside and knows she is gone.

    Speaking with Mojo, he described it as "Probably my most personal, and sometimes I think my best, song," adding, "It's about whether we know what's going on at a particular time, whether we recognise people for who they really are, whether we know what people are talking about when we're in a relationship with them. It's about missed opportunities."

    A few years earlier, Brown divorced his second wife, Lynne Sweeney. His first wife, Phyllis Major, died of suicide in 1976. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ken - San Diego, CA
  • Much of the Lives In The Balance album is political, with Browne taking aim at the Reagan administration. This heart-rending song goes in a different direction, more in line with his album The Pretender from 10 years earlier.

Comments: 19

  • Chris Hughes from Leicester, UkOne comment here says he allegedly beat Phllis. The only allegation that he mistreated her came from Joni Mitchell in her songs Song For Sharon and Not to Blame; and Mitchell doesn't allege that he beat her. Mitchell's allegations were the false accusations made in anger by a spurned lover. See my account of Browne and Major's brief 1972 relationship and how it ended up with Not to Blame: https://bit.ly/3kznGvB
  • Jacqueline Brewsaugh from South CarolinaFlying Gypsy you are so right, the song My Baby's feeling funny in the morning that's a true event. That's how he won his wife Phyllis you know he got his ass whooped. They were together a couple years they had a son together and they got married after the boy was born got a year-and-a-half later. 4 months later is when she committed suicide. Here he was on tour with this little boy. Now there's only two songs that he admits about writing about his wife but right after she committed suicide is when the album Late For the Sky came out. He doesn't admit it but when you listen to that album I can't help but think he was thinking about her when he wrote those songs
  • Flying Gypsy from TexasJackson says the song is about his wife Phyllis, the song is not about Daryl Hannah. That relationship was much later in Jackson’s life. Read interviews with Jackson where he clearly says the song was about his loss and grief after losing his wife.
  • Sjp from Dorset UkLovely comment Debi. Really moving and spot on the truth. Take care
  • Jrz from Jrz , In Va listened to this for the first time in a long time~ felt it to my soul~ on the wings of an angel a message to you in heaven " I still wear my Ruby heart"
  • Mikeonzephyr from Maricopa, ArizonaI have long been a big fan of Jackson Browne, ever since he emerged on the scene. I agree with the other commentators here that "In the Shape of a Heart" is maybe, probably, certainly the best effort of an exceptional career. Through an economy of words, he brilliantly and perfectly use the imagery introduced in the song to describe moving on from the relationship.

    "And I held it in my hand
    For a little while
    Dropped it into the wall
    I let it go and heard it fall"

    Thank you Jackson Browne
  • Donaldee from Elma, WashingtonOne of Jackson Brown's finest songs. The master story teller covers the full range of human emotions as the band delivers a driving complement to his confessions of Love and longing. The artist has a talent for delivering music that almost everyone can relate to. This song was so relevant to my life that in a time I wont forget for the sorrow and regret, I bought my wife of 35 years a heart shaped pendant with a Ruby on a gold chain and gave it to her as a gift.
    I gave her the song as well. Thank You Jackson Brown.
  • Anthony from Hickory, N.c.The song came out in 1986. Jackson Browne is documented as saying that the song specifically addresses his relationship with his first wife, Phyllis Major, who died in March 1976 of a drug overdose:

    It was a time I won't forget
    For the sorrow and regret —
    And the shape of a heart.

    Jimmy Guterman, upon reviewing the album in 1986, singled out the song as a "mature version of the dark love songs on The Pretender. With the lyric "I guess I never knew/What she was talking about" coupled with "I guess I never knew/What she was living without,'" Guterman writes, Browne "nails heartbreak to the wall and sends his listeners scurrying for the Kleenex."
  • Roland from Wake Forest, NcOne of my favorites from Jackson Browne!
  • Eric from San Francisco, CaThere was a song on The Pretender,Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate, that Jackson wrote about his wife. In the Shape of a Heart was many albums, many years later, so it is unlikey it was written about Phyllis. The songs on I'm Alive, including and particulary the title song, were likely written about Daryl Hannah, who he was accused of hitting
  • Rick from Frederick, Mdthis is one of the very best pieces of music ever created by jackson browne.
  • John from Leicester, United KingdomIt apparently was written about his wife Phyllis, who committed suicide. He is alleged to have beaten her over a long period and it's his apology as such...
  • Walt from Astoria, OrAmy, I have no idea if "In the Shape of a Heart" was written about Daryl Hannah or not. But, she was born in late 1960, which made her about 25 when the song came out. Her and Jackson Browne were together from 1983 to 1992.
  • Amy from Traverse City, MiGod, I can't believe some of you. Look at the date the song came out, Darryl Hannah was a child. This was about the tragic loss of Phyllis.
  • Liz from Smallville, KsNice song. I like it a lot
  • Paula from Fort Wayne, InI heard that it's about his failed relationship with actress, Daryl Hannah and I'm fairly certain that it's true.
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcThis is one of the most powerful and poignant ballads I have ever heard. I cannot believe it did so poorly on the singles charts!
  • Patrick from Charlotte, NcThis song is rumored to be written about his wife Phyllis, who committed suicide.
  • Debi from Seattle, WaI now wear a ruby on a chain around my neck in the shape of a heart. I bought it after my 16 year marriage failed, not to remember the failure but to remind me of the fragility of love. It takes courage, and eyes wide open, tho most the time we never even know what we're looking for. Thanks JB.
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